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Creating Space to Do Nothing

Practice
tea looking out the window

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How to reclaim time to restore yourself.

According to researcher Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, empty time is one of the best things we can do for our mental health, for several reasons. It can be an incubation period for future bursts of creativity, he posited in a paper on this subject, and, it can also be when we start to deal with feelings and thoughts that we may have been putting off by being previously “too busy” to acknowledge them. But in a world that values busyness and productivity above all else, it can be difficult emotionally and logistically to do nothing, to value a good daydream or putter. For this week’s Healthy Habit, let’s look at techniques for blocking off time to do absolutely nothing important whatsoever.  

Step 1: Schedule Free Play

You set up times of day to go to work, to exercise, to have dinner. So set time on your calendar—10 minutes, 15 minutes—and block it off as sacred “do nothing” time. Making appointments with ourselves is the best way to achieve a goal.

Step 2: Become Used to the Feeling

According to the experts at Headspace, “When you have a busy mind, doing nothing is quite hard.” It can take some time to get used to the sensation of peaceful relaxation.

Step 3: Define Your Free Time

Once you’ve broken the habit of filling every moment, figure out what type of “doing nothing” is going to work best for you. A brief nap? Staring out the window? A doodle? Arranging a collection? Contemplation of a pond?

Step 4: Defense

Those around you may not approve of or understand your short bursts of enjoyable-yet-restorative-sloth. They may mistakenly think you have time to spare and try to elbow in on this time. Hi-ya! you will say. “This is my time. After all, as time management expert Craig Jarrow writes, “Your time is your most valuable resource. You cannot get more time. Don’t let others waste or steal it.” Your precious time to do nothing is when you are refilling your cup so that you can be there for other people in just a little while. It’s not only okay but necessary to hit the pause button.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a wellness writer based in Savannah. She's been a contributor to Spirituality & Health for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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